Oxygen derived free radicals have been implicated in the pathogenesis of acute pancreatitis in numerous animal models of the disease. The xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol has been shown to attenuate pancreatic damage in canine and mouse models of acute pancreatitis presumably by preventing the generation of cytotoxic superoxide anions. We therefore examined whether allopurinol could attenuate pancreatic injury in conscious rats with caerulein induced acute pancreatitis. A continuous intravenous infusion of allopurinol (20 mg/kg/h) for six hours along with an acute pancreatitis producing dose of caerulein (10 micrograms/kg/h) reduced pancreas weights by approximately 45% and serum amylase concentrations by approximately 60% compared with rats intravenously infused with either caerulein alone or caerulein plus a lower dose (10 mg/kg/h) of allopurinol. We conclude that the generation of oxygen derived free radicals via pancreatic xanthine oxidase represents an early and perhaps pivotal mechanism in the pathogenesis of acute pancreatitis.
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